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Chapter 29 The Triumph of the Church.

  • Singing like unto an enamoured lady
  • She, with the ending of her words, continued:
  • "Beati quorum tecta sunt peccata."
  • And even as Nymphs, that wandered all alone
  • Among the sylvan shadows, sedulous
  • One to avoid and one to see the sun,
  • She then against the stream moved onward, going
  • Along the bank, and I abreast of her,
  • Her little steps with little steps attending.
  • Between her steps and mine were not a hundred,
  • When equally the margins gave a turn,
  • In such a way, that to the East I faced.
  • Nor even thus our way continued far
  • Before the lady wholly turned herself
  • Unto me, saying, "Brother, look and listen!"
  • And lo! a sudden lustre ran across
  • On every side athwart the spacious forest,
  • Such that it made me doubt if it were lightning.
  • But since the lightning ceases as it comes,
  • And that continuing brightened more and more,
  • Within my thought I said, "What thing is this?"
  • And a delicious melody there ran
  • Along the luminous air, whence holy zeal
  • Made me rebuke the hardihood of Eve;
  • For there where earth and heaven obedient were,
  • The woman only, and but just created,
  • Could not endure to stay 'neath any veil;
  • Underneath which had she devoutly stayed,
  • I sooner should have tasted those delights
  • Ineffable, and for a longer time.
  • While 'mid such manifold first-fruits I walked
  • Of the eternal pleasure all enrapt,
  • And still solicitous of more delights,
  • In front of us like an enkindled fire
  • Became the air beneath the verdant boughs,
  • And the sweet sound as singing now was heard.
  • O Virgins sacrosanct! if ever hunger,
  • Vigils, or cold for you I have endured,
  • The occasion spurs me their reward to claim!
  • Now Helicon must needs pour forth for me,
  • And with her choir Urania must assist me,
  • To put in verse things difficult to think.
  • A little farther on, seven trees of gold
  • In semblance the long space still intervening
  • Between ourselves and them did counterfeit;
  • But when I had approached so near to them
  • The common object, which the sense deceives,
  • Lost not by distance any of its marks,
  • The faculty that lends discourse to reason
  • Did apprehend that they were candlesticks,
  • And in the voices of the song "Hosanna!"
  • Above them flamed the harness beautiful,
  • Far brighter than the moon in the serene
  • Of midnight, at the middle of her month.
  • I turned me round, with admiration filled,
  • To good Virgilius, and he answered me
  • With visage no less full of wonderment.
  • Then back I turned my face to those high things,
  • Which moved themselves towards us so sedately,
  • They had been distanced by new-wedded brides.
  • The lady chid me: "Why dost thou burn only
  • So with affection for the living lights,
  • And dost not look at what comes after them?"
  • Then saw I people, as behind their leaders,
  • Coming behind them, garmented in white,
  • And such a whiteness never was on earth.
  • The water on my left flank was resplendent,
  • And back to me reflected my left side,
  • E'en as a mirror, if I looked therein.
  • When I upon my margin had such post
  • That nothing but the stream divided us,
  • Better to see I gave my steps repose;
  • And I beheld the flamelets onward go,
  • Leaving behind themselves the air depicted,
  • And they of trailing pennons had the semblance,
  • So that it overhead remained distinct
  • With sevenfold lists, all of them of the colours
  • Whence the sun's bow is made, and Delia's girdle.
  • These standards to the rearward longer were
  • Than was my sight; and, as it seemed to me,
  • Ten paces were the outermost apart.
  • Under so fair a heaven as I describe
  • The four and twenty Elders, two by two,
  • Came on incoronate with flower-de-luce.
  • They all of them were singing: "Blessed thou
  • Among the daughters of Adam art, and blessed
  • For evermore shall be thy loveliness."
  • After the flowers and other tender grasses
  • In front of me upon the other margin
  • Were disencumbered of that race elect,
  • Even as in heaven star followeth after star,
  • There came close after them four animals,
  • Incoronate each one with verdant leaf.
  • Plumed with six wings was every one of them,
  • The plumage full of eyes; the eyes of Argus
  • If they were living would be such as these.
  • Reader! to trace their forms no more I waste
  • My rhymes; for other spendings press me so,
  • That I in this cannot be prodigal.
  • But read Ezekiel, who depicteth them
  • As he beheld them from the region cold
  • Coming with cloud, with whirlwind, and with fire;
  • And such as thou shalt find them in his pages,
  • Such were they here; saving that in their plumage
  • John is with me, and differeth from him.
  • The interval between these four contained
  • A chariot triumphal on two wheels,
  • Which by a Griffin's neck came drawn along;
  • And upward he extended both his wings
  • Between the middle list and three and three,
  • So that he injured none by cleaving it.
  • So high they rose that they were lost to sight;
  • His limbs were gold, so far as he was bird,
  • And white the others with vermilion mingled.
  • Not only Rome with no such splendid car
  • E'er gladdened Africanus, or Augustus,
  • But poor to it that of the Sun would be,—
  • That of the Sun, which swerving was burnt up
  • At the importunate orison of Earth,
  • When Jove was so mysteriously just.
  • Three maidens at the right wheel in a circle
  • Came onward dancing; one so very red
  • That in the fire she hardly had been noted.
  • The second was as if her flesh and bones
  • Had all been fashioned out of emerald;
  • The third appeared as snow but newly fallen.
  • And now they seemed conducted by the white,
  • Now by the red, and from the song of her
  • The others took their step, or slow or swift.
  • Upon the left hand four made holiday
  • Vested in purple, following the measure
  • Of one of them with three eyes m her head.
  • In rear of all the group here treated of
  • Two old men I beheld, unlike in habit,
  • But like in gait, each dignified and grave.
  • One showed himself as one of the disciples
  • Of that supreme Hippocrates, whom nature
  • Made for the animals she holds most dear;
  • Contrary care the other manifested,
  • With sword so shining and so sharp, it caused
  • Terror to me on this side of the river.
  • Thereafter four I saw of humble aspect,
  • And behind all an aged man alone
  • Walking in sleep with countenance acute.
  • And like the foremost company these seven
  • Were habited; yet of the flower-de-luce
  • No garland round about the head they wore,
  • But of the rose, and other flowers vermilion;
  • At little distance would the sight have sworn
  • That all were in a flame above their brows.
  • And when the car was opposite to me
  • Thunder was heard; and all that folk august
  • Seemed to have further progress interdicted,
  • There with the vanward ensigns standing still.